(Suicide and mental illness are mentioned pretty heavily in this blog. If you’re sensitive to those subjects just beware.)
As we all know yesterday was #BellLetsTalk, an annual campaign used to call attention to the stigmas surrounding mental illness in today’s society and, more specifically, in the hockey world. It’s the one day a year when everyone comes together and says says “if you need help, reach out” but we don’t talk about it enough in the days after that.
Like many people, this past year my mental health took a big hit. I started 2021 with a lot of doubts in my head. I had no idea what I was doing with my life, I was getting so into my head about what everyone in my life thought about me every day. Sure, those are all things I had been dealing with since I was unfairly young but 2021 was the year I finally realized that I really can’t do this alone. It’s something I had a hell of a time admitting but in late October, it all came to a head in my mind.
On October 5th, 2021, a dear family friend, someone I would say helped raise me into the person I am, committed suicide. His name was Evan and he was just a month shy of his 30th birthday. He was a massive part of my upbringing as he was one of my brother’s best friends. He went to my high school softball games, took me ice fishing for the first time, and was at every major family birthday or holiday. And just like that, he was gone. And for weeks after, I found myself constantly reeling, as I still am some days, trying to sort through the “why” and “what ifs”. It was a nightmare come to life and I had no idea what to do or who to turn to.
Mentally, we are all so vastly different from person to person, that’s one of the beautiful things about life. We are all our very own people, both physically and mentally. No two people see and experience the world the exact same way. Just like our physical health differs from person to person, our mental health does the same. And for a lot of people, mental health is not something they think about once a year for a national hashtag. It’s an everyday battle with getting out of bed, making phone calls, eating, or just simply keeping yourself alive. It’s something that often gets neglected until a breaking point, ignored until the powder keg explodes. It’s why talking about mental illness is so important.
We desperately need to break down the stigmas that getting help is “weak” because it’s not. There is absolutely no problem with getting help. And when I say getting help, I don’t just mean professionally. It could just be texting a friend, relative, or maybe even a help hotline like “hey man, I could use some help right now”. It could even be getting a book about ways to improve your mental health and applying some of those small changes every day. And there is no shame in doing any of those things. You’re not bothering or burdening them.
In my opinion, it’s just like asking someone for an outside perspective on a situation. Imagine this: every day, you are the Captain at the helm of your own mind (yes, this is a pirate analogy) and sometimes it isn’t smooth sailing. Sometimes those dark clouds fog the way ahead or you’re somewhere you’ve never been before and you just can’t seem out of it. Sometimes you just need a second pair of eyes, be it a friend, relative, or maybe a professional, to help you work through it and find a way out. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. We all need a second pair of eyes to help us see clearer sometimes. And sometimes, sure, it takes a while to see clearer. It takes work every single day and that can be daunting but I promise you that one day the sun will shine upon those open seas again.
Like I said though, it can take time and that’s okay too. I know I get so obsessed with being successful in my early 20’s because I feel like I’m constantly running out of time but I have to remind myself that that’s not true. Good things take time. Putting that hard work into getting better may take a while but it’ll be worth it.
I am by no means an expert in mental health, I’m just a 22-year-old who is sick of everyone tip-toeing around the very real conversation we need to have more often. There is no problem or shame in reaching out for help, we were not made to go through life alone. I promise you that there are people who would be heartbroken without you. The hashtag might roll around once a year but it is important to talk about mental health and wellness every single day. You don’t know who needs that support in July or March or October, it’s more than just one day a year.
If you need help, never feel bad or “weak” about reaching out for it. You’re not a burden for doing so and you’re not alone in all of this. There’s incredible resources out there to help, no matter what day or time it is. If you need help, here is a list of resources. Take care your mind, it’s the one thing you have to spend your entire life with.
Featured Image from Aurora Behavioral Health